The third Pro Tour of the season has always been the best event for me, with two Top 8s and a Top 16 over the last three. I had high expectations coming to Nashville—I knew it would be special, and it turned out to be a great one with my best friend Christian Calcano making his first Pro Tour Top 8 and putting me 1 Pro Point away from Gold.
Unlike previous PTs, we didn't reach Nashville until Monday before the PT, doing the bulk of our Limited preparation online and at our local Grand Prix.
For Standard, our team split in two. Eight of us played Mono-Black Zombies, and four of us played Mardu Blue. I put a lot of trust in our leader Lee Shi Thian, but this time Kelvin Chew and I worked closely on the deck that we would end up playing, and it took us both to a 7-3 record.
This list is a few cards off of the one we played at the Pro Tour, but it's the one I recommend after last weekend.
Some people might have forgotten about this Vehicle, but it is a powerful weapon against Zombies, which is probably the deck's worst matchup. It also provides a helpful boost to our Aether Hubs in a 4-color mana base.
In the mirror match, dodging Fatal Push is pretty great, since it lets you attack into open mana, whereas you never want to do with Heart of Kiran. Crew 1 means that we can once again play Walking Ballista, which is a powerful card against Zombies—much better than Veteran Motorist.
Cut // Ribbons
At the PT, we chose to play 2 copies of Cut and only 3 of Unlicensed Disintegration. It's better vs. Zombies, but worse against Archangel Avacyn or Torrential Gearhulk. Overall, it wasn't a bad choice, but I think I would go back to the old 4/1 split.
Archangel Avacyn or Glorybringer
We chose to play just 24 lands and go up to 25 in the sideboard—without Cultivator's Caravan—which meant that we could only afford to play 4-drops. A low land count is a huge edge when you don't ever want to flood. Since we opted for Aethersphere Harvester, we didn't have slot for Avacyn, which might be fine some of the time against Zombies, but it's pretty bad in the Marvel matchup.
Marvel was one of the three tier 1 decks at the Pro Tour, and we knew that, which is why old Mardu couldn't work. Discard isn't nearly as effective as counters are in that matchup. I was also worried about New Perspectives, since I worked on the deck a lot and found it a pretty solid choice. We played Negate for New Perspectives, but from now on I would play Ceremonious Rejection.
Despite not having Cultivator's Caravan, we still had 12 blue sources (with the Wandering Fumarole in sideboard) and that's enough to consistently play a blue spell on turn 3. Aether Hub is powered up by Aethersphere Harvester, which made it slightly better here than in slightly better land than other Mardu lists.
I finished 55th, going 3-3 in Draft and 7-3 in Constructed for 6 Pro Points, which puts me 1 point away from Gold. This is what I played against:
UW Flash: 1-0
Having a master of the game like Lee Shi Tian on the team was essential for my 4-1 score in the mirror match. He revealed a lot of secrets of the matchup to me, and the planeswalker plan was always where I wanted to be.
Zombies is easily the worst matchup for this deck. In testing we had near 50-50 results, but at the PT my opponents would always run me over and I never drew my Declaration in Stone.
You need to be able to switch gears, either on the play and on the draw. Toolcraft Exemplar matches up poorly against your opponent's removal, and your focus should be on establishing a favorable board presence and stalling the board with planeswalkers and Vehicles.
I strongly recommend against playing Sorin, Grim Nemesis, 6 mana might as well be infinite, and the card isn't a huge improvement over other options. Many of my opponents played Sorin against me, but they never had it in play more than one turn since my Heart of Kiran was always there, waiting for my opponent to tap out without a removal spell at the ready.
We found in testing that Radiant Flames and Fumigate aren't nearly as good as most people think they are. You never want Relentless Dead to die, and they don't really overextend unless they have a good reason to. On top of that, cards like Liliana's Mastery and Dark Salvation don't really care about mass removal, and those are the biggest problems for the deck.
You beat Zombies when you resolve a planeswalker on an empty board, and then you finish them off with your unblockable flyers. You always want to be the control, so Toolcraft Exemplar and Scrapheap Scrounger both get the ax.
This was a very favorable post-sideboard matchup in our testing, but we didn't have the version with 4 Chandra, Flamecaller. If that one sees more play, I can see bringing back the Negates. You need to pressure them as well as you can while leaving up mana to counter their Marvel.
At the Pro Tour, I faced a version that transformed with Bristling Hydra and Glorybringer, which made me look foolish with my Negates and Release the Gremlins in hand. This made me change my sideboard plan, and now I always keep in 3 Unlicensed Disintegration, since you never know what can your opponent might come up with.
Mardu Vehicles reminds me a lot of Bant Company. At the Pro Tour, everyone was ready to beat it, and it didn’t do that well, but now with the shields are down, the sheriff can come back to town!